FAIRBANKS—The state will not file criminal charges against law enforcement officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man last Christmas Eve, according to a report from the Office of Special Prosecutions released Monday.
Cody Dalton Eyre, of Delta Junction and Fairbanks, was shot in a wooded area east of the intersection of the Steese Highway and the Johansen Expressway, off of Lazelle Road, on Dec. 24, 2017. Alaska State Troopers and Fairbanks police had responded to the area after getting reports that Eyre had been drinking, was suicidal and had a .22-caliber revolver loaded with one bullet.
Troopers Elondre Johnson, Christine Joslin and James Thomas, and Fairbanks police officers Richard Sweet and Tyler Larimer fired on Eyre after he ignored repeated requests to put the gun down, pointed the gun at the officers and said "You guys can (expletive) die right now," according to the report written by Chief Assistant Attorney General Paul J. Miovas Jr.
A fourth trooper, Nathaniel Johnson, was present at the shooting but did not fire his rifle because "he could not feel his hands due to the extreme cold weather," according to the report. The temperature that night was approximately 10 below zero.
Miovas' report states that, given the fact Eyre had a loaded gun and said he didn't care if the officers died, "the officers were legally entitled to use deadly force to protect themselves and their fellow officers."
Miovas' report also states, "Although my review has determined that criminal charges are not warranted, I did not review this matter to determine whether any trooper or officer acted within any applicable use-of-force policy, nor do I express an opinion as to the appropriateness of any applicable policy."
Investigation determined more than 40 .223 rounds and two individual shotgun rounds were fired at Eyre in two main volleys. Eyre had 23 gunshot wounds associated with the shooting, but since the wounds included both entry and exit wounds, the exact number of bullet strikes was difficult to establish, according to the report.
An autopsy conducted at the state medical examiner's office revealed Eyre died of a gunshot wound to the left rear of his head.
Eyre's family has questioned the circumstances surrounding his death. Eyre's mother called 911 at 7:03 p.m. that night to report her son was distraught and was walking to clear his head and be alone. She requested that law enforcement help her get her son because she was afraid he would hurt himself or wander into the woods and succumb to hypothermia. She and one of Eyre's sisters followed Eyre as he walked from their Farmers Loop Road area home but were unable to follow as he entered the wooded area with law enforcement officers behind him.
Eyre's sister Samantha Eyre-Harrison said the family still questions why the situation escalated so quickly and why so many officers opened fired in two separate volleys.
"The family believes that due to tactical incompetence, Cody was sentenced to a preventable execution. This didn't need to end in death," Eyre-Harrison said in a Monday afternoon telephone call to the News-Miner.
The Eyre family also questioned the length of time it took for the completion of the investigation. Eyre-Harrison said the family received no information during the nine months between Eyre's death and the report's release and that investigators would not release Eyre's clothing or cellphone to them.
Eyre-Harrison said the delay set off "red flags," which caused the family to hire Juneau attorney Mark Choate. Several weeks ago the family announced they planned to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the state.
Eyre-Harrison said state did not notify the family about the report and that they did not find out its contents until contacted by an Anchorage news agency.
Jonathan Taylor, the communications director for the Alaska Department of Public Safety, said in a phone call to the News-Miner on Monday that both troopers and police tried unsuccessfully to contact the Eyre family before the release of the report.
The state plans to hold a full media press briefing to include body camera footage on Wednesday, Oct. 10, according to a news release issued by the department Monday. Details on the time and location of the briefing will be released as they become available.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.